By Andy J. Gordon
Gov’t Mule returned to the Fonda Theatre (formerly the Music Box) for a special pre-Halloween show on October 30th. Each year they select a classic rock band to cover for the occasion. They chose The Doors for the 2013 special event and raised the level of anticipation by announcing that guest guitarist Robbie Kreiger, a founding member of The Doors, would join the band for the entire cover set. The sold out show was filled with Gov’t Mule fans who remember The Doors music reverentially and even a few who may have seen the original band. The place was sold out and many came in wacky costomes. The first set covered a broad spectrum of old and new Gov’t Mule material and the second set was a laundry list of Doors classics.
The opening set was heavily skewed toward songs from the band’s new album Shout! Several of the new tunes are structured as ballads leading into extended guitar solos. Three new songs, “Whisper In Your Soul,” “Forsaken Savior” and “When the World Gets Small” followed that pattern. Another new song, “World Boss” was more reminiscent of their classic hard rockers. Near the end of the set bassist Jurgen Carlsson left the stage and Warren Haynes introduced Neal Fraser, the bassist from classic British band Free. Haynes talked about how Free was a major influence before they launched into a successful cover of Free’s “Mr. Big.” Carlsson came back for the set closing sequence of “Thorazine Shuffle” that segued nicely into another new song “Funny Little Tragedy” and returned back to the conclusion of Thorazine. Both the band and the audience took a much needed break before the Doors cover set.
Once the house lights dimmed for the much anticipated Doors set, the crowd erupted in loud applause as the band launched into “Break on Through” with Robbie Kreiger featured at center stage. The Doors set gave Danny Louis a chance to shine since so much of the material is dependent on the distinctive keyboard work of the recently deceased Ray Manzarek. Louis did a nice job with the material. Gov’t Mule has successfully covered many songs by bands that influenced their music over the years. Their Doors set was really a mixed bag. The songs that were rooted in the blues, like “Been Down So Long” and Jimmy Reed’s “Cars Hiss By My Window” were definitely in their wheelhouse. Kreiger can definitely still deliver scorching solos. However many of the songs just did not satisfy. The problem seemed to be both the lack of rehearsal (Haynes fumbled some vocals while he and Kreiger seemed to be out of sync often) and the unmistakable differences in singing style between Haynes and Jim Morrison. While Haynes’ gravelly voice works great with his own material, the Doors catalog is so infused with Morrison’s distinctive baritone that the Gov’t Mule versions paled in comparison. There were a few tunes that they pulled off nicely which came at the end of the show. The sequence of “Roadhouse Blues,” “The End,” “Riders on the Storm,” and “LA Woman” had the band and Kreiger settling into a comfortable rhythm while everyone sang along. After a brief departure the band came back for the encore with the aptly titled “When the Music’s Over.”
Gov’t Mule shows always satisfy their fans cravings for hard hitting live rock. Their pre-Halloween show was a brave, yet flawed attempt to take on the iconic catalog of Doors material. While it was a pleasant novelty to have Robbie Kreiger along for the ride, the more satisfying part of the show was the opening set of original Gov’t Mule material. Give the band props for the attempt, but overall it just was not a good fit. That’s not to say that the band should stick to originals – their frequent covers are always fun, but in this case a full set of Doors covers was several songs too many.
Photos courtesy of ©2013 Jim Brock Photography www.eyeonthemusic.com